Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa


Gluten-free Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa uses an easy chicken and steak marinade that you’ll use all year long. 

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

Ben’s and my weekly dinner menus are ridiculously predictable, featuring Chipotle burrito bowls a minimum of one night a week (what DO they put in that guac to make it taste so good?!) and what we fondly refer to as “boring chicken” another one, or let’s be real, two nights a week.

Why is it called “boring chicken”? Because dinner consists of simply seasoned chicken breasts sauteed in olive oil then served with some sort of roasted vegetable and wild rice cooked in chicken broth.


As boring as it sounds though, both Ben and I love it. The meal is quick to prepare and like I always say, it’s the simple things in life. Like really good vanilla ice cream. Or noodles and butter. Or eating 37 Hershey Kisses in a row. Know what I mean?

That being said, spring and summer are always great times to get risque with boring old chicken by marinating it and throwing it on the grill. Luckily I’ve got the perfect grilled chicken marinade you’ll want to use all season long.

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

This marinade is made completely from ingredients I can almost 100% guarantee you already have in your cupboards – a little soy sauce, oil, honey, red chili pepper flakes, garlic, salt, and pepper combine to make a super juicy grilled chicken that has all the right flavors. A little salty, a little heat, and just a teeeeny bit of sweet. It’s just fantastic.

The marinade recipe was actually sent to me years ago by a faithful IGE reader named Stacy (Stacy, are you still reading?!) I used to use it quite a bit for steaks, which I HIGHLY recommend, but had never used it on chicken until just recently. I’m here to tell you it is absolutely wonderful, and does the trick in as little as 30 minutes.

As I mentioned last Friday, watermelon is tres chic in the culinary world right now so I jumped on the bandwagon and made a cooling, ultra-refreshing Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa to spoon on top of my grilled chicken. How gorgeous are these colors?! Very spa-tasting, too. Close your eyes…

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

Start by making the marinade which is made up of fridge and pantry staples. Huzzah! Like I said, this marinade started out as a steak marinade but obviously works fabulously for chicken. Try it with salmon too!


To large bowl add 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free tamari, 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil), 1 Tablespoon honey, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (or more or less,) and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger then whisk to combine.


Pour the marinade into a Ziplock bag placed inside another large bowl before adding 1lb meat – in this case chicken breasts – then marinate for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. I don’t like keeping chicken in marinades that contain soy sauce for longer than 2 hours because the salt starts to make the chicken rubbery. If you’re using this marinade for steak though, you can let it sit for 2-6 hours before grilling.


Tip: before adding the chicken breasts to the marinade, make sure you’ve pounded them to the same thickness to ensure they’ll cook evenly on the grill. There’s nothing worse than having one end of a chicken breast grilled to perfection while the other end resembles charcoal!

Place the chicken on a cutting board then cover with Glad Press’n’ Seal or saran wrap then whack it with a rolling pin or meat mallet until the chicken is the same thickness.


I like to go a step further and score my chicken breasts with a sharp knife on one side to make sure the marinade really permeates the meat.


While the chicken is marinating, whip up an easy and oh-so refreshing Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa. This stuff is the epitome of summer! Simply combine chopped watermelon and cucumber with fresh cilantro, jalapeno, green onion, salt, pepper, and lime juice in a bowl then stir. Rocket science, it is not. :)

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

When it’s time to eat, pop the chicken on pre-heated grates over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes a side, or until no longer pink in the center. Be sure to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes off the grill before serving. Just like steak, you’ll lose a ton of yummy juices if you carve into it right away.


After the resting period is up, plate the chicken then top with a big scoop of Cucumber-Watermelon salsa and dig in!

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa

serves 4


Gluten-free Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa uses an easy chicken and steak marinade that you'll use all year long.


  • For the marinade (makes enough for 1lb of meat):
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce or gluten-free Tamari
    • 2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil)
    • 1 Tablespoon honey
    • 4 crushed garlic cloves, peeled (not chopped garlic - it will burn on the grill!)
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more or less)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • For the Watermelon-Cucumber Salsa:
    • 1-1/2 cups chopped watermelon
    • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
    • 1/2 jalapeno, minced
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
    • 1 green onion, chopped
    • juice of 1 lime
    • drizzle of honey
    • salt & pepper


  1. Whisk marinade ingredients together in a bowl then transfer to a plastic Ziplock bag set inside another large bowl.
  2. Pound chicken to an even thickness then score diagonally across the top and place inside bag with marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes a side, or until no longer pink in the center. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  3. For the Watermelon-Cucumber Salsa: combine ingredients in a bowl then spoon over grilled chicken.
  4. NOTE: this marinade is also awesome for steak - marinate for 2-6 hours in the fridge before grilling.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

Look no further for a chicken and steak marinade to use all summer long. This mix is so easy to toss together and gives the chicken incredible flavor. That crunch and freshness from the Cucumber-Watermolon Salsa is also a must-try!

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

I served my marinated grilled chicken with sweet potato fries (Ore-Ida frozen are my favorite,) but any grilled veggie would be awesome to go with – especially my  easy grilled potato packets. Enjoy!

Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa |

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  1. This looks really good! Such a fun recipe! And it’s nice to change a regular for something else every now and then :).

  2. Amy 05.21.2014

    This looks really good! I don’t have tamari though – could I substitute an equal amount of low sodium soy sauce ?

    • Amy 05.21.2014

      Oops, I should have read further. I see it as an alternative. I can’t wait to try this!

  3. I just found a recipe for strawberry salsa yesterday and I was like WHAT?! Why have I never thought of fruit salsa’s besides mango. So finding Watermelon salsa today is once again exciting! Looks so yummy!

  4. I adore grilling season! This looks like a perfect go-to recipe.

  5. Kelli 05.21.2014

    There is a fruit in season? Let’s put it on top of grilled chicken! Very typical move by IGE. But this one looks better than your typical fruit chicken combo.

  6. OH YUM! This sounds DELICIOUS! just yesterday I said, “Wow! It’s summer! Which means it’s WATERMELON SEASON!!” Can’t wait to make this!

  7. Lea 05.21.2014

    I am totally going to tag this in for dinner tonight. My husband was less than impressed with what I was going to make, so I think this will be a good substitue. =)

  8. I love fresh salads like this one! I can’t wait to put this on our summer eating listing!

  9. Yum! Everything about this recipe sings of summer. Looks amazing!

  10. Chicago Jogger 05.21.2014

    Yum – the combo of watermelon and cucumber sounds perfect!

  11. Chelsea 05.21.2014

    I use a very similar marinade on pork loin. Then you just throw it on the grill and people can’t get enough! They always want my recipe, but I’m a little embarrassed because it is just too easy!

    • Susan 05.21.2014

      Would you mind sharing your recipe with us? I hate making pork because it is always so dry.

      • Kristin 05.21.2014

        Hey Susan! I’m looking forward to hearing Chelsea’s recipe too, but wanted to pass on a tip I recently learned. Pork only needs to be cooked to an internal temp of 145 vs the 165-170 degrees it was previously recommended to be cooked too (which results in shoe leather!!) Anyway, I learned it when I recently visited a nearby pork chop grill!

        • Susan 05.21.2014

          Thanks Kristin!

  12. Susan 05.21.2014

    Your recipe came at the perfect time. I am making chicken tonight and making chicken is getting pretty BORING!!

    My sister just told me to marinate salmon in soy sauce, homey and red pepper flakes for about 5 minutes. She claims that it is delicious! It must be because your recipe uses three of the ingredients.


    I don’t buy Hershey Kisses because I can eat the whole bag!

    And I wanted to tell you how adorable Lincoln is. I bet your heart just melts when he smiles.

  13. Jackie 05.21.2014

    Holy yum! Gotta try the salsa!

  14. beth 05.21.2014

    What kind of grill did you use? Thanks much.

  15. Stacey Brown 05.21.2014

    Hi, its me Stacey and YES I’m still here and a faithful reader! Thanks for the shout out! I still use this marinade all the time – try it for salmon! ;)

  16. Mary 05.21.2014

    I LOVE it that you used Ebert’s honey! Definitely trying this one! Thanks.

  17. Melissa 05.21.2014

    What do you think about freezing the chicken in the marinade to take a long on a camping trip? Would love to try and grill this over an open camp fire!

  18. CakePants 05.21.2014

    That has got to be the most refreshing-looking salsa I have ever seen or even heard of in my life – absolutely perfect for the scorching summer days I’m anticipating! The sweet potato fries look fantastic, too! Also, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only food blogger who has made Chipotle burrito bowls a part of my regular dinner rotation :P

  19. Jill 05.21.2014

    Noodles and butter!!! I swear I ate that every other day when I was in high school. This recipe looks awesome. It’s going on my meal plan for next week!

  20. Amanda 05.21.2014

    This looks fantastic… Can’t wait to try it out this summer. Have you ever tried using a Jaccard Mest Tenderizer? It works wonders with marinades by letting all the tasty stuff get inside the chicken and it does double duty by evening out the thickness of the chicken while you use it.

  21. Matt Robinson 05.21.2014

    This is awesome Kristen, the perfect summer feast!!

  22. Christina 05.21.2014

    Mmmm looks delish!!!

  23. Trisha 05.21.2014

    Cucumber and watermelon is my favorite summer combo. But I can’t say it without thinking of the Cucumber Melon body spray that EVERYone had to have in middle school. That is, after the Sun-Ripened Raspberry phase. Do they still make those scents?!

  24. Alexandra 05.21.2014

    When I read the name of this recipe my mouth literally fell open in amazement, lol! I have to try this ASAP!

    — Alex at Cashmere Kangaroo

  25. I haven’t had marinated chicken breast in ages. I’ll have to try this soon!

  26. Carla 05.22.2014

    I want to make this …. right now. But I don’t have a grill. Boo! There is nothing about this that doesn’t sound like the best chicken ever.

  27. […] know that a grill is on my list and Kristin just posted the most mouthwatering grilling recipe. Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa. I was seconds away from licking my […]

  28. Noelle 05.23.2014

    I made this last night. I subbed the watermelon for strawberries, since I had them on hand. My neighbor came over, and she and I both loved it :) Thanks!

  29. JJ 05.24.2014

    This looks great. I forgot to buy cilantro but I have mint. I am thinking that might be good too. We’ll see. Of course, first have to get more gas for the grill.

  30. […] menu for tonight? Grilled chicken teriyaki burgers with pineapple salsa. YUM. Adapted from this Iowa Girl Eats recipe, we decided to test out our newest toy with some fresh chicken and pineapple (thank you, Harris […]

  31. Elizabeth 05.25.2014

    This looks fantastic! Can’t wait to try it out tomorrow night, thanks for sharing! :)

  32. Jennie M. 05.26.2014

    I just made this for company and everyone raved! Coconut aminos are a great substitute for anyone with a soy sensitive. I would never have on my own put watermelon and cucumber together, but it was super refreshing! I think I’ll bring a big bowl of just the salsa to our next work potluck :)

    Thanks for another fun, grain-free recipe!

  33. […] Memorial Day is complete with out using the grill, so we grilled chicken with this new marinade from Iowa Girl Eats. Look at those grill marks Philip got for […]

  34. Stephanie 05.26.2014

    My husband and I just made this recipe tonight – thought it would make a great Memorial Day dinner! It was FANTASTIC!!! We’re making more of the salsa tomorrow night.

  35. Keira 05.27.2014

    OMG amazing! My husband and I made this last night and let’s just say this is one of our new faves. The marinade is awesome! We served it with the Ore-ida sweet potato fries like you suggested and an ear of corn – which is amazing this time of year in FL! We also like- scratch that – LOVE your BBQ chicken salad – you are awesome – keep the good recipes coming!

  36. Pam 05.29.2014

    This dish was deeeeelish!! I made it tonight and everything was so fresh tasting and bursting with many flavors. Definitely a wonderful summer meal. My husband who is hard to please really liked it and asked me to make it again. I paired it with grilled asparagus. Perfect. Thanks so much for all your great recipes. There are still so many on my list to try!

  37. Kelly MacDonald 05.31.2014

    I just made this recipe last night! It was absolutely delicious! Even my picky no fruit on my meat husband like it. Perfect dish to kick off the summer grilling season. Love your fun, easy recipes as well as your family page. I have a 5 1/2 month old boy (our first) and am on the same page as far as healthy eating for these precious little ones!

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  41. […] Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Watermelon Salsa from Iowa Girl Eats […]

  42. Camille Placa 07.30.2014

    Made this tonight …. It was delicious!! Going to try it with steak next!

  43. […] recipe is courtesy of Thanks for this one […]

  44. […] Marinated Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Watermelon Salsa […]

  45. EcigAir 09.17.2014

    Hello, the whole thing is going nicely here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts,
    that’s really fine, keep up writing.

  46. Jean Koch 05.17.2015

    Sounds delicious, especially with the watermelon salsa!
    It’s similar to a favorite marinate that I have used for years on chicken, pork, and salmon. My marinade: equal parts of soy sauce, sugar, and white vinegar. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

  47. […] This recipe was inspired and adapted from Iowa Girl Eats here. […]

  48. […] Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa via Iowa Girl Eats […]

  49. Heather 07.30.2015

    This looks so yummy! We saw it on Pinterest and had to share it with our readers!

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